We all could use a little dinner inspiration — even Ali Slagle, who dreams of dinner. In “Dinner Is Served,” she asks colleagues about one night when they somehow transformed ingredients into dinner with all this life going on.
This month’s installment: Cybille St.Aude-Tate and Omar Tate opened Honeysuckle Provisions last year to provide their neighborhood in West Philly with delicious food that can all be traced in some way to a lineage of Black food. “There’s a constant reclamation by Black folks our history and re-capturing our identity in different ways,” Tate says. “We’re bringing all of that to the forefront along with this beautiful food.” In addition to offering groceries and takeout, the couple recently launched their Black Farmer Box CSA that features products from Honeysuckle or the Black farmers they work with in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Dinner, which they share with their sons Jupiter, 20 months, and Apollo, two months, is a subject close to their hearts: “The whole point of Honeysuckle was to consider how we eat at home and how we feed our children and replicate that in the store for our neighbors,” St.Aude-Tate says. More often than not, dinner for the family means chicken, and every ingredient tells a story.
Cybille St.Aude-Tate: Honestly, being parents and being owners of a store that just opened, a lot of our meals come from what we can grab out of the store at the end of our shift. This most recent one was basically a remix of what we call Honeysuckle at Home. It’s a chicken or salmon dinner for two people with three sides, dessert, our Honeysuckle bread, and a compound butter that we make in-house. We just basically took what we could and brought it home and finished it at home. The half chicken is marinated with Creole spice, which we make in-house.
Omar Tate: Can I say what’s in it, or will I be in trouble...? I will say that something that’s distinctive that I learned about in New Orleans is that Creole spice has oregano in it.
Cybille: So we’ve been pretty much taking that chicken and bringing it home and throwing it in the oven and then just adding some sides to it. What were the sides we used? Lemon pepper carrots, stewed beans, and marinated beets. We try to be as seasonal as possible with what we bring into the store so we have a ridiculous amount of beets in the store right now. The beets have been pickled.
Omar: Yeah we pickle the beets, not too heavy of a pickle. We’ve used the same beet pickling liquid since October. We save it every time so by now it’s kind of like beet vinegar. It has thyme, garlic, orange zest, and orange juice.
When we make the beets into a salad, fresh versions of the ingredients in the pickling liquid are mirrored back, so it’s beets with actual orange segments and fresh thyme and black pepper. A little bit of garlic oil (a very small amount). Scallions.
For the stewed peas, we use a lot of heritage peas from Anson Mills, particularly rice peas, sea island red peas, and petit rouge peas. All these peas all have distinctive names but are all relatives of the black-eyed pea and all in general are of African origin based on the seed they come from.
Cybille: And then for our bread: The concept started with Dr. George Washington Carver, who is the inspiration for our bread program and a lot of the ways that we interpret crops and farming in our store. He pretty much came up with 100-plus ways to utilize cash crops that farmers were growing back in the 1900s. Sweet potato flour was one of those things. We make the flour by slicing, roasting, and dehydrating sweet potatoes, then turning them into flour. We use the flour for bread, English muffins, burger buns, dinner rolls. We serve the yam bread with squash butter that we make with squash aminos.
Omar: And also we grew the sweet potatoes in partnership with Plowshare Farms last year. So we grew the potatoes and then turned the potatoes into flour and that’s the flour that we use. All our breads are sourdough breads. They take up to 36 to 48 hours to ferment. The English muffin is the longest one, a 48-hour ferment. That’s how you get all the nooks and crannies in it. Our breads are healthier because they’re all whole-grain. The mills that we work with are Castle Valley, Small Valley, and Anson Mills, so two local ones and one very intentional one.
Cybille: Jupiter [our almost two-year-old] loves the bread. He eats everything. Anything and everything. He doesn’t discriminate; he’ll try anything once. Very sophisticated palate he has. He can tell if something is not seasoned. He doesn’t want anything plain; everything he has, has to be dressed and seasoned. The only thing he actually despises is mashed potatoes. But he eats every aspect of this dinner, even down to and especially the bread.
Omar: Last night, he tried to beat us up over a croissant.
Cybille: We didn’t grow up in a restaurant but it’s going to be interesting to see what our kids’ relationship to food is going to be like having grown up in this.
Omar: Yeah, they’re going to be spoiled.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
Ali Slagle is a recipe developer, stylist, and — most important of all — home cook. She’s a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, and her cookbook is called I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To): Low-Effort, High-Reward Recipes.
Daniela Jordan-Villaveces is a creative director and illustrator. She was born in Bogotá and raised between Colombia, Holland, and the U.S. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles with her husband, their son, Lou, two kittens, and a pup.